Scoring of Websites of Regional Forest Management Authorities by WWF Russia
Forest management authorities’ websites in 80 regions of the Russian Federation were assessed against 24 criteria.
Providing people of the country with concise and reliable information on forests and on planned and on-going activities of forest management authorities – through websites and other media – are not a matter of good will, but a legal obligation in Russia. Also websites for forest management authorities are not only their ‘public face’ or ‘an Embassy in the Web’ but a powerful (potentially) tool to involve public into forest management or at the very least – informing the public. For example websites could be highly effective to quickly spread information on emergency situations in forests (including forest fires), explain people on functions and activities of forest management bodies. However to make this tool to be an effective one for public involvement a lot of attention should be paid to establish trust and feedback between forest management authorities and communities – websites can help here again.
Unfortunately not all regions of the Russian Federation use the potential of the Internet to the full extend. Informational content of many official websites of forest management authorities is very far from being concise, accurate, user friendly to help to inform communities, businesses and other branches of the government about forests and their plans and activities in forests. The potential of the Internet is poorly used to inform people about forest fires and requirements of regional legislation on forests.
Following are some general observations about the content of websites of regional forest management bodies:
Phone number of the ‘hotline’ to be developed to receive complains and advice from people to regional forest management authorities and inform them about forest fires or other emergency situations in forests is provided only on 33 websites (41 % from the total number of websites analyzed which was 80).
Most of websites (59 %) are lacking instructions and safety tips for people for a case of a forest fire and no safety tips when visiting forests.
54 % websites are lacking information about the current situation with forest fires in the region.
30 % websites have no Forest Plans for the region and (or) Forestry Regulations for Forest Management Units. The quality of the published information is quite poor in many cases. For example, almost nowhere maps or even schematic illustration materials are published despite the fact that these materials have to be an obligatory part of a Forest Plan.
Only 65 % of websites have some mechanisms to follow up feedback from the public - complains and appeals about forests and forest management. However, typically FAQs and analysis of public appeal are underdeveloped. There are only a few examples indicating that public concerns are addressed and followed up via e-mail and a website in a consistent way.
Even much generalized maps of forest management units are present only on 24 % of websites. However maps are critical to involve public into forest management, including illegal logging and forest fires management.
73 % of websites are lacking information on forest areas lease agreements and leaseholders. Only a few websites have consistent information on that and even these websites are lacking any maps to illustrate location of on-going and (or) planned logging. 78 % of websites have no information on forest industry development.
Only half of regions published their regional forest laws and regulations on their websites, however, these laws and regulations are critical for local communities and have a direct effect on subsistence use of forest products, including timber and NTFPs, and small business development in the forest sector.
Only 43 % of websites have at least some bits of information on illegal logging and their prophylactics.
Only 46 % of websites have an active news section. 24 % of websites add new information to this section one a week or less frequently. 30 % of websites have no news section on them in any shape or form.
However, some regions of the Russian Federation have very well developed websites, for example, information on official websites of regional forest management authorities of Khanty-Mansiisk – Ugra, Kemerovo, Tver, Chelyabinsk, Tambov and Kostroma regions fitted perfectly almost all 24 WWF’s scoring criteria. Information content quality of these websites was estimated as very high. Other 8 regional websites were estimated as ‘good’ according the quality of their informational content: Tumen, Tomsk, Sakhalin, Ulianovsk, Kurgan, Vladimir, Altai Kray and Kamchatka Regions.
WWF Russia believes that the results of this scoring will help the Federal Forestry Agency and regional forest management authorities to improve the quality of websites and this will help information transparency and development of public involvement into forest management. This is especially important now when the discussion of the draft text of the Russian Forest Policy was started;this document has an important focus on public involvement into forest management.
The scoring was developed under support of the WWF-IKEA Partnership on Forests.